The number of North Koreans granted work visas by Chinese authorities increased by 17% last year, according to official information released by China’s National Tourism Administration.
93,300 work visas were given to North Korean citizens in 2013 according to the data released on Tuesday, along with roughly 206,600 North Koreans visiting China as tourists.
Geoffrey K. See of Choson Exchange told NK News that the increase could potentially be accounted for by a stronger focus on the economy in North Korea last year.
“Frankly speaking, as much as they want to get investments from elsewhere, the reality is that most of the investments will have to come from China,” See said by telephone from Singapore.
Many of the visas issued by China could also be given to repeat visitors, See suggest. “Because of the increased rates of business interaction, there are a lot of North Koreans visiting China much more frequently, around 3 trips a month, 4 trips a month, that kind of thing.”
“I’m sure a portion of [the increased visas] are accounted for by a portion not just of unique visitors but also much more frequent travel across the border, for transactions”.
When asked about the probable background and occupation of the increasing number of North Koreans crossing the border, See said that there is “definitely an uptake in North Koreans coming in to China and being involved in manual labour in an official capacity,” but pointed out that this was also likely augmented by “people who are more on the upper end of the social class … going over for both consumption and business”.
North Koreans officially visiting China for tourism also increased by 11% (up to 200,000, from 186,000 last year), the highest number of visitors since China began publishing statistics in 2005.
There are no official figures on the total number of North Koreans working in China, but these statistics indicate that despite frostier relations China-DPRK relations continue to co-operate in the economic realm.
China is the largest provider of aid to North Korea as well as North Korea’s major trade partner, and it has been estimated that Sino-North Korean trade now makes up at least three quarters of the DPRK’s entire trade.
Many North Koreans work in China illegally, with an estimated 20,000-30,000 defectors living and working in China.
Picture: Eric Lafforgue
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